Chrysler Plans $3B in Powertrains



Chrysler has outlined some of the line items on their ambitious $3 billion plan to bolster the fuel efficiency of the company's engines and vehicles.

Frank Klegon, executive vice president for product development, said the company pushed ahead with the investments on the assumption that fuel economy standards were going to get tougher.

The technology behind the push — from diesel engines, to cylinder deactivation and new lightweight axles — reflects Chrysler's continuing dependence on Mercedes-Benz for new technology and technical assistance. Except for the hybrids in the new lineup, Mercedes-Benz had a hand in several of the technical initiatives Chrysler announced, Chrysler officials acknowledged.

In addition, Klegon said Chrysler was exploring the development of a four-cylinder diesel engine for the North American market, and the expansion of its 3.0-liter V-6 diesel engine. It's a good bet the company will be ready to announce production of the smaller diesel within the next 18 months, one insider suggested.

"Chrysler Group is focused directly on improving fuel efficiency across our vehicle lineup," noted Klegon. "We have developed and are implementing a series of major initiatives — including a bigger push in hybrid and clean-diesel technology — to meet the needs of American consumers.

"Many of these fuel-efficiency initiatives will be incorporated simultaneously into a single vehicle family — our new V-6 with Multi-Displacement System (MDS) mated to a dual-clutch transmission, for example — ultimately resulting in double-digit-percentage fuel-economy gains," he added.

Chrysler’s all-new family of "Phoenix" V-6 engines will become available in 2010. The company has already broken ground on new plants in Trenton, Mich.; Kenosha, Wisc.; and in Mexico. All the plants will produce the Phoenix family of engines.

The Phoenix engines will feature cylinder deactivation, which optimizes fuel economy by shutting off three cylinders when V-6 power is not required. The end result is an expected across-the-board V-6 fuel efficiency improvement of six to eight percent — in addition to new levels of V-6 power, performance, and refinement, Chrysler officials said. The MDS technology comes from Mercedes-Benz.

Among other fuel-saving powerplants, Chrysler Group said its upcoming two-mode hybrid program will expand beyond the 2009 Chrysler Aspen Hybrid and Dodge Durango Hybrid, which debut next year. Chrysler's two-mode hybrid system leapfrogs current technology by addressing inefficiencies that exist in high-speed driving with traditional hybrid technology, said Chrysler spokesman Nick Cappa. The result will be a 25-percent improvement in fuel efficiency overall — and a nearly 40-percent economy boost in the city — in the Chrysler Aspen Hybrid and Dodge Durango Hybrid, he said.

The DaimlerChrysler Bluetec diesel will go on sale in the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Bluetec combines technologies and is focused the reduction of nitrogen oxides in the exhaust gases.

A mild hybrid, which shuts down the vehicle when stopped in traffic to save fuel, also is in the work and will be integrated into the Chrysler vehicle program before the end of the decade, Chrysler officials said.

Chrysler also is working on an upgraded version of the 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 for 2009, which will result in gains in fuel efficiency, refinement, power and torque. In addition, a new version of 4.7-liter V8 offers up to five percent better fuel economy than the previous 4.7-liter engine, Chrysler officials said.

A new dual-clutch transmission — developed in partnership with Getrag — joins the Chrysler Group lineup in significant volumes in 2010 model-year vehicles, Klegon said. The new dual-clutch transmission is expected to deliver a fuel economy improvement of up to six percent, based on preliminary testing.

New common axle technology, which comes from Mercedes-Benz, also will result in fuel-economy and axle-efficiency gains, while providing weight savings, cost reduction, increased refinement, and less complexity. New advanced materials increase overall axle strength and reduce package size. The new axle is already featured in the Chrysler 300C SRT8; the axle will soon appear in other Chrysler Group vehicles.

Klegon also Chrysler has new set of initiatives are in place to improve fuel efficiency across its vehicle lineup by at least five percent. These initiatives include weight reduction, aerodynamic drag improvements, reduced rolling resistance and brake drag, optimized accessory loads, and minimized drivetrain losses.


“We're moving forward with real urgency to improve fuel efficiency across our entire lineup,'' Klegon said.

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